Its the 12th of July once again and the streets of Belfast and other Ulster towns will be
filled with people out to see the Orangemen Parade. The music of the ‘Sash My Father Wore” will be heard everywhere and repeatedly . I once thought of this as an exciting time, and indeed I was filled with pride. Nowadays I cringe at the thought of more violence and trouble in the streets.
Back in 1987-88 I was fund raising to bring 12 Irish Children out of the sectarian violence and troubles. On one occasion I visited the Orange Lodge in Charlottetown to ask for their support. They were gentlemen, did not appear in anyway to be fanatically protestants. Indeed they did supported our program with a generous cheque.
However, I found myself in a rather awkward situation when they invited me to join their order. I tried to be very tactful explaining how busy I was and could not possibly give my time to working for the club. (it is long gone now)
The other side of this coin unfortunately remains very much as an opposing club or order. The benevolent Irish Society” a Catholic organization. I also went there to fund raise and they too provided me a generous cheque. However, no awkward situation here!! I was not invited to join. Old beliefs and habits die hard eh!!! Later we received a letter from the then president George O’Conner, he complained that we were only using protestant chaperons ,some of whom were Ulster Police personnel. I didn’t respond. What Mr O’Conner failed to grasp was, we were trying very hard to avoid the very issue he was raising. I had travelled to Belfast twice at my own expense to find chaperons, a difficult task. Not too many people can take four weeks off in the middle of the summer. But even more importantly for me as a protestant it was difficult to even enter Catholic areas. Most of the recruiting of the children was done through the schools, they too were separate systems. It was dangerous times and one had to be very careful. I couldn’t hid the fact I was from Belfast nor hid the fact I was protestant. We were trying very hard not to take sides regarding the religions of the chaperons as George O’Conner was suggesting, we brought six boys, six girls, six Catholic’s and six protestants. On arrival they were two separate groups, going home they were one group of good friends, just normal twelve happy children
I sincerely hope that today’s parade goes off without any serious incidents or injuries.
God Bless and keep reading